I’ve been watching the Olympics for the last few days. I like the Olympics all right, especially the swimming and track & field events, and I have a special interest in rowing because my uncle won a gold medal in the men’s eight during the 1948 Olympics.
The USA men's eight rowing team plus coxswain (my uncle is fourth from the right)
While I was watching, I started thinking about an intellectual equivalent to the Olympics, specifically one related to books. I don’t know if there is anything like that. Sure, they give prizes to people for writing books, but we don’t see them competing against each other in any immediate way, sitting at tables all in a row, furiously scribbling or tapping away at keyboards. And what about all the other book-related activities out there in the world? What about proofreading and editing and reviewing and stocking shelves and remaindering? What about quoting favorite passages? What about naming all the Newbery award-winning authors in order of the year they won? Why can’t we reward people who excel in those activities? I haven’t really worked it all out in my mind, but I think some of the sports could be:
Equestrian: Contestants name all the books by Marguerite Henry as fast as they can.
Selling: Contestants vie to sell the greatest number of books that are neither romance nor mystery novels to someone planning a beach vacation.
Wading (instead of Swimming): Contestants wade through horridly written stuff. Imagine the thrill of watching them flip through page after page of tripe! However, since most of the horridly written stuff goes right to e-publication, I don’t know how interesting it would be to watch someone holding a Nook or a Kindle and flicking their finger once in a while. This event needs some development, that’s for sure. At any rate, it could be followed immediately by:
Recycling: Upon finishing the Wading competition, contestants run the manuscripts of horridly written stuff through shredders and then take it all to the nearest recycling center.
Double skulls: Paired contestants engage in tandem recitations of the gravedigger scene from Hamlet.
Other possible events could include paperweight lifting, fountain pentathlon, and shooting.
And I’d really like to see a contest where someone quotes a line from a novel or story and then their partner has to provide the correct following line.
What is your own opinion?